52 pages 1 hour read

Nadine Gordimer

Once Upon a Time

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1989

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“Once Upon a Time”

  • Genre: Fiction; short story; contemporary fairy tale
  • Originally Published: 1989
  • Reading Level/Interest: Grades 11-12; college/adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 10 pages; approx. 20 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: The main narrative is set up when the narrator, a writer, is approached about writing a children’s story but declines. After being awakened in the middle of the night, the narrator lies awake and imagines a “fairy tale” about a white family in South Africa that descends into racist paranoia and turns their home into a fortress, with disastrous consequences.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Apartheid in South Africa; racism; violent death of a child

Nadine Gordimer, Author

  • Bio: 1923-2014; born into a middle-class Jewish family in Springs, South Africa; published her first story at age 15; wrote novels, essays, and short stories; addressed exile, alienation, and the effects of apartheid in many of her works; lectured and taught in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s; won the Booker Prize for her novel The Conservationist (1974); was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991
  • Other Works: Face to Face (1949); The Lying Days (1953); Burger’s Daughter (1979); July’s People (1981); My Son’s Story (1990); Jump and Other Stories (1991); Living in Hope and History: Notes from Our Century (1999); The Pickup (2001); No Time like the Present (2012)